As the start of the Glalsyn Osprey Project looms closer, what lies ahead for 2008? Eggs? chicks? A third osprey arriving on the scene to mix things up mid-season? Who knows.
What we do know is we are raring to go and ready to show you some of the finest close-up nest footage of the ospreys that you could hope for. We unveiled our new cameras last year, and captured some breathtaking footage of the osprey family. We are able to zoom in so close that every feather of the birds, every scale of the fish they bring, and every drop of rain (and last year there was a lot of rain!) is pin-sharp.
It's been six months or so since we were last here, and if you're memories of last season are a little spongy then here's a quick recap to help bring you up to speed...
The male came back in March minus the orange ID ring on his right leg. All of us were convinced this was the usual male. His markings and mannerisms were identical to previous years and he settled in so quickly with the female. This is where the super-dooper new camera's came into their own. As he sat on the nest we could zoom in closely on the metal BTO ring on his left leg and read the ID number, confirming that this was indeed our regular male. Brilliant!
With the Easter hols came three eggs - of the non-chocolate variety! - from which, emerged three lovely chicks. Sadly, one of them didn't survive, but the other two went from strength to strength and fledged successfully in the middle of July. All in all, a fabulous season.
Now, all eyes are turned skywards, as we anticipate once more the return of the adult birds. Every gull, buzzard and even crow that flies nearby is being scrutinised more closely than usual - just in case it turns our to be Mr or Mrs osprey! We will open the viewing site on Thursday 20 March, so do come along and see us over the Easter bank holiday weekend - you may be the one to catch that first glimpse of the birds. We will also be showing last year's highlights from the nest-cams in the visitor centre. It's great to be back! Hope to see you all very soon.
The viewing site officially opened over the weekend and we have had some glorious weather to get things started. More than 1000 people have been to see the ospreys so far over the first three days. This year, we have some magnificent high-powered telescopes, giving a much clearer view of the nest and the birds.
In fact, our technology at the site has improved all round this year and we now have not one but three cameras watching the nest! The original camera remains on the nest tree, just above the nest giving us a view looking down on the birds. A second one is level with the nest and we are able to zoom in on the birds with this. The camera is in a protective dome to keep it safe from the weather (it can get pretty wild at times here in north Wales) and doesn't move or make a sound as we zoom, so the birds are totally unaware of it. A third camera is on a seperate tree around 40 metres away, giving us a wider view of the area. There are now two screens in the visitor centre and we can choose which of the three images to show, depending on what the birds are doing. It means we should have even better footage to show visitors this year and get all the nest-side action.
The birds have had an active couple of days and have been mating plenty. As well as all the visitors on the ground, they have had a few aerial guests to deal with. Love is certainly in the air, as a couple of peregrines were displaying and bonding together around the nest on Sunday afternoon. They didn't bother the ospreys at all, they were just wrapped up in their own courtship rituals, plus it made great viewing for us through the binoculars. This morning, just before 10am, a pair of herons went over the nest - they looked huge, even from all the way down here. The ospreys took this a little more seriously and both went up off the nest. After plenty of angry calling from both pairs the herons made off and have not been back. That's great teamwork from the ospreys!
More mating and plenty of fish-eating has followed this morning. It's a little cloudier today but still pleasant around the site and we are looking forward to welcoming lots more visitors over the Easter holidays.
Another busy week was had here at the Glaslyn Osprey Project - both birds were busy building up the nest and feeding. On Monday a large female osprey (staff working at the site think that she may be one of the chicks from 2007) was seen attacking the nest, which caused both our ospreys to be very defensive. The large female osprey eventually flew off up the Glaslyn valley towards Beddgelert.
The large female re-appeared on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and again dive bombed our resident nest. No sighting of the large female was noted over the weekend, and there was reason to celebrate this morning (Monday 6 April) when the first egg of the season was sighted.
The female had been agitated on Sunday evening and when she returned back to the nest after 5pm last night, she was moving around the nest and engaging in displacement activity. Normally the female osprey would lay every other day, with a total of three eggs expected during the next few days. Each egg will be incubated for around 37 days, which means hatching should occur in mid-May. Watch this space!
The Glaslyn osprey pair were called on early yesterday morning and it wasn't a particularly welcome visitor. A third osprey made it's appearance at 6:40 am to mix things up a bit. It flew over the nest and the female shot up off the eggs, calling the whole time, probably warning this intruder to back off. She is as fiercely protective of her family as any mother and made a formidable opponent in flight, with her legs dangling down below.
The male got involved too and at one point, all three birds were in the air together calling and flying close to each other - the intruder got within a foot or two of the nest but the Glaslyn pair performed wonderfully together and managed to ward it off. The altercation didn't actually get physical but it was a tense ten minutes. Towards the end, the female went back to sit on the eggs and the male escorted his visitor off the premises - they flew off north together into the early morning mist. When the male came back at around 8am he had a fish with him, so had obviously combined his territory protection flight with a spot of fishing - resourceful chap! At first, the female didn't seem to want to eat, she could have been feeling a bit churned up from the morning's upset, but eventually she took it off to a feeding tree and had a nibble.
So who was the guest osprey and what was it doing? It could be looking towards mating and trying to get into the territory. From the views we got at the protection site, it was hard to identify as male or female. When Iolo Williams turned up later to film for his new series of Iolo's Welsh Safari, he told visitors that ospreys often try and interfere with each other and each other's nests. We will wait and see if it puts in another appearance. By the way, Iolo spent quite a bit of time filming with us - you can catch the piece on Iolo's Welsh Safari on BBC One Wales, Monday 14 May at 7:30pm.
As for this morning, well, it's a good job the osprey nest is so high up, they are about the only ones around here not getting their feet wet at the moment. After pelting rain all day yesterday and through the night, the river is high and raging and the ground is sodden.
That's the peril of having a viewing site on the flood plain. We are able to use the nest cameras to zoom in and see the bird's efficient waterproof plumage in action. The rain is just running in rivulets off their backs. Down on the ground it is flowing rather less glamorously down the tops of our wellies.